Thankfully Spring seems to have sprung, though it has seemed a bit tentative. Perhaps it’s scared that some lingering remnants of the long, cold winter will try and snuff it out. Admittedly, we’ve felt the same way–trying to fully jump back into the freshness of new life when it seems everything around us echoes the groans of a broken creation. How do we reconcile the two? How do we remain hopeful through the darkest nights that the joy of life will rise like the long-awaited sun?
We recently decided that post-Valentine’s Day was a decent time to take down the Christmas card wall we had erected in our dining room. Physical reminders of the loveliness of life are certainly one of the best ways to stay encouraged, and these photographic, captured moments of love and family are one of the dearest representations of the fullness of life to us, so we put them smack in the middle of our dining room–first thing you see when you open our front door. It’s that important, even that necessary, to us.
One of the last cards we removed took our breath away. It was a picture of the wonder of Christmas and the joy of Spring combined as two Santa hat-wearing newborn twins smiled at the camera. This card is from a wonderful organization called Claris Health offering a range of amazing, life-giving options to women experiencing unexpected pregnancies. These twins were the byproduct of those options. Devastatingly, a month after that card was mailed to us, one of the twins suddenly stopped breathing and passed away.
We pushed the card to the side of the pile, but our eyes were unable to break away from it, much less our hearts. The joy of this “annual Christmas card removal ceremony” was nearly swept away with sadness. What in the world could have been the purpose of this child’s life being lost so soon after it had been spared? So many moments of life represented on our table only magnified the singular moment of death.
The organization’s newsletter came a few weeks later with a note from the twins’ mother. She said, “My family has never known how to show love. Everything you have done has shown me what true love is–for the first time in my life, I can say I’m loved”. In the anguish of death, God’s breaking heart cannot help but spill out love all over us. Still in the afterglow of Easter, the picture of Jesus Christ represents that the greatest expressions of love can sometimes only be communicated through death.
Not long thereafter, our dear friends invited us over for a little birthday celebration for Katherine. We organized it so that we could also attend a prayer service for a special couple, Will and Angie Gray, whom we’ve posted about before–here–which would be held across the street from our friends’ place. We had dinner and were planning to slip out for a bit to go to the prayer time, then come back for a cupcake or two.
We arrived at the church’s office, and to our surprise, the subjects of our prayer, though exhausted and ill from the cancer radiation treatments, were there with us. The juxtaposition of celebrating another year of Katherine’s life, one that shouldn’t have been after her stroke, with pleading and interceding to God for Will’s life was almost more than we could bear. It’s astounding how the enemy can insert feelings of guilt about God’s miraculous works in our lives, particularly in light of the painful circumstances of others. We ached with guilt during that hour of prayer. We cried and trembled as we laid our hands on the Grays–these worst months of their lives instantly transporting us back to the worst times in ours.
After the prayer time, we returned to the celebration, which honestly, was all-but-deflated of its previous levity. Our hearts were too heavy to smile. And yet as the candles flickered off the windows and glasses, a small collection of light illuminated the night. Even as the candles were blown out on yet another undeserved year, that small collection of burning lights remained in our hearts.
The brevity of life is all the more painful because of its incredible moments of beauty, but never let the focus on one allow you to lose sight of the other. This whole experience is just a blink, a blurry one at that. Before we know it, our eyes will close for the last time only to open again to true beauty, in crystal clarity. Yet the life, the creation, the celebration matters because it is God’s, and it is good–may it be a bittersweet memory, an uncompleted hope of what is to come.
* Just before Easter, a few days AFTER this video was made, doctors declared Will’s cancer to be “non-curative”. He and Angie have been sent home. Please pray for this couple–for hope to remain and for God to heal the broken places only He can. Please consider making your compassion and love more tangible with a monetary donation–click here.